Contemporary Pedagogy Vs. Bureaucracy !!

At the end of the course and in my last post I would really like to thank Dr. Nelson, the TA team, and all of my classmates for this great opportunity to learn new ways of pedagogy that will pave the road for us as future professors. Now to a shocking question, can we really apply these methods and techniques (i.e. PBL) in our classroom? In other words, will we be allowed to do so? I don’t want to be pessimistic, but the answer is in some places this can be very hard. Some universities in some countries are fully controlled by the government to the extent that the professor may not be free in choosing his way of teaching. For example in Egypt, most of the universities are public and controlled by the ministry of higher education. Each department’s curriculum is created by some of the professors working in the department through the department council. However, before starting the new curriculum, it should be reviewed and approved by the ministry of higher education through an entity called the supreme universities council. This process involves a lot of bureaucracy and it may take a year or more for a curriculum to get approved. Once approved, any minor change in the curriculum (i.e. Adding or removing a topic) should be reviewed and approved by the supreme universities council before being effective. The curriculum should define the list of courses required or optional for a specific degree, the list of topics within each course, the grading policy, the textbook, and any other relevant information to the course. Some of these requirements are obligatory (i.e.  exams and grading policy), and others are just recommendations (i.e. textbooks). For example if it is stated in the curriculum that there is a midterm or final for a course, then the professor is required to offer the midterm or the final and there is no choice for him. For me, I really hate exams and I don’t want to offer exams in my classes and I would like to rely on project assessment. But, it will be a violation by law if I didn’t provide the final!!! The good news is that there are some professors that can devise some workarounds to all these restrictions. I remember in one of my master classes in Cairo university in Egypt, the professor (a PhD holder from Maryland college park) decided not to give any exam and he just relied on submitting a report at the end of the semester. But according to the Computer Science Curriculum in Cairo University, there must be a final for this course. Accordingly, he told us to come at the time of the exam and just staple our reports to an empty exam paper!!!!! What an idea!!!! I really liked this, and I will never forget this professor. I really learned from him that a professor can be creative and do whatever he wants in his class despite any restriction or bureaucracy. But this adds some burden on the professor as now he is required to devise creative ways of teaching and devise their corresponding bureaucracy workarounds. Otherwise, he should then spend all his time in his career writing and submitting curricular changes to the supreme universities council!!

4 Responses so far.

  1. A. Nelson says:

    Thanks so much for this, Mohammed. I really appreciate your reminder that the tension between the ideal and the real might be significant. But I can tell that you are going to follow in the footsteps of the creative prof you reference here — doing what you can to facilitate active learning and modeling a culture of compassion, support and care for the learning community that you’ll be maintaining — even with all of the redtape and restrictions. Every little bit helps, right? Also, there’s a wonderful person in higher ed pedagogy at the American University in Cairo who has an amazing, global network: http://blog.mahabali.me/blog/ She’s on twitter as well. Let us know how it goes, ok?

  2. AbdelRahman says:

    Thanks Mohammed for the post. I like what your Mater’s professor do in his class. For me, as being supposed to return to the system you mentioned and work under it’s bureaucracy, I share the same thoughts as you.
    However, I think you can find your way around every obstacles without violating the rules. While having a fixed curriculum for your course, you still can balance between what you want to do and what you are forced to do. For example, every course in Egypt has both lectures and tutorials. Tutorials are purely yours, you can give whatever you find useful for your students. Final exams are obligatory, but your professor find a way for that. Other during-semester exams, you can replace with other forms of evaluation.

    Also, Thanks for Dr. Neslon for letting us know about this great Egyptian professor who is interested in pedagogical stuff.

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